Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Whatever!: Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins

The last installment of the Hunger Games trilogy was my favorite.  In it, Katniss is called upon to become the face of a revolution, all the while becoming increasingly aware that there are many people, previously unnoticed, who want to be the actual force of the revolution.  I loved this because it was such a beautiful portrayal of leadership, with all the bumps and bruises involved in the process.  It also does a great job examining the way political maneuvering springs up in a power vacuum, even when the people in the system are ostensibly on the same side.  Most of all, though, I like that Suzanne Collins has bundled all of this into this trilogy intended for young adults, on top of all the other themes and questions she packs into the books.

After Katniss’ second turn in the Hunger Games, she emerges into chaos.  The Districts are in disarray and open revolt, and refugees have been moving towards District 13, which was previously thought to be bombed out of existence.  It takes her time to shake the fog of the Games, but when she does, she begins to understand the immensely complex political maneuvering she now finds herself amidst.  She must decide whether she actually wants to assume a leadership role – her public face to date having sparked a revolution – in the resistance.

This last installment of the book was particularly resonant for me for its look at political leadership and the responsibility involved therein.  I’ve been a political junkie since I was about 12, and people have always just assumed that I should and would run for office some day.  For a long time I thought I wanted to, but the older I get and the more I see our political discourse get simplified and impoverished, the less I think that’s what I actually want to do.  I think that’s because I understand the insane amount of responsibility it takes to run for and hold office.  A lot of people are upset and frustrated now, and that’s prompting many of them to consider running for office, but angry ideas and frustration do not create good leaders.  Mockingjay does a great job of laying bare the challenge of leadership and that’s why it resonates with me.

For the musical theatre junkies, it also reminded me of “The Dance of the Robe” from Tim Rice and Elton John’s Aida (lyrics below):

Aida: It’s knowing what they want of me that scares me,
It’s knowing having followed that I must lead.
It’s knowing that each person there compares me
To those in my past whom I now succeed.
But how can whatever I do for them now
Be enough?
Be enough?

Nubians: Aida! Aida!
All we ask of you
Is a lifetime of service, wisdom, courage
To ask more would be selfish,
But nothing less will do
Aida! Aida!

Crossposted at The Outpost

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